VMRC Finifish Advisory Committee Supports Shad Conservation Measures

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Finfish Management Advisory Committee (FMAC) on March 28, after a rigorous discussion of need, pros, and cons, recommended a 10 hickory shad creel limit across all gear types as the most practical approach for managing the recreational fishery to mitigate risk of overfishing.

VMRC plans to take the recommendation to a public hearing on May 28 barring any unforeseen circumstances.

A Public Notice will be posted on the VMRC website about 2 weeks before the public hearing and will provide the intended actions and directions for public comment. CCA Virginia supports the recommendation and will post an alert when the VMRC Public Notice is available.

The Issue: There has been no stock assessment for hickory shad or a stock determination for coastwise populations. Hickory shad is an anadromous fish that lives mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and returns to the Chesapeake Bay’s rivers and streams to spawn. Along with American shad, they were once an abundant and important commercial species. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission reported that the American Shad coastwise population was found depleted by a 2020 Stock Assessment and Peer Review Report. There has been no stock assessment for hickory shad or a stock determination for coastwise populations. As one of the first migrating game fish available to Chesapeake sport anglers in the early spring, they are important to and valued by the Bay’s recreational fishing community. Unlike American shad, currently there are no conservation protections in place for hickory shad in Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its coastal rivers and their tributaries. There are no limits on the size or number of hickory shad an angler take from these waters. There are also no restrictions on the type of gear one can use to catch them. Hickory shad, however, are fully protected in Maryland and DC waters and there is a ten-fish daily bag limit in North Carolina (though no size limit) and Virginia rivers beyond the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This is concerning because unrestricted catches in Virginia’s coastal rivers threaten progress made to protect and restore both shad species, which are also forage for striped bass and other Bay game fish. The S

Solution: Alarmed by this threat to the important fishery, CCA Virginia has been working to remedy this situation with little success. So, early February 2024, the organization submitted a formal petition for rulemaking to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) requesting that the Commission consider reasonable harvest regulations for hickory shad in Virginia waters under its jurisdiction. This fisheries management adjustment will help ensure a quality recreational fishery, streamline VMRC’s regulatory oversight, and be more consistent with shad and herring restoration plans.


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